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Spanish ministers celebrate as scandal-hit football chief Luis Rubiales announces resignation

MADRID – Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) chief Luis Rubiales quit his post on Sunday, after three weeks of scandal over his unsolicited kiss to a player on the women’s national team as they celebrated their World Cup victory.

Rubiales announced his resignation in a statement in which he said his position had become untenable, with the RFEF later confirming he had sent a resignation letter to acting president Pedro Rocha.

His kiss on Jennifer Hermoso after Spain beat England 1-0 in Sydney on Aug 20 had caused outrage among players, government officials and many in the wider Spanish society, raising questions over sexism in sport.

His decision to go came after further blows to his position in the last few days. A Spanish prosecutor filed a complaint with the High Court against Rubiales on Friday for sexual assault and coercion.

The complaint – which came after Hermoso opted earlier in the week to lodge a criminal complaint over the incident – describes how Rubiales kissed the 33-year-old attacker on the mouth “without her consent” while holding her head with both hands during the medal presentation.

The 46-year-old has said the kiss was mutual and consensual, and had until Sunday defied calls from players, government officials and others for him to resign.

Australian police told AFP on Monday they were willing to help with an investigation, but that a report had not yet been referred to them.

Rubiales had also been suspended from all football activities by Fifa for 90 days pending an investigation by the world governing body into his actions.

As the pressure ramped up in recent weeks on him to quit, Rubiales’ mother Angeles Bejar went on a hunger strike in protest, locking herself in a church.

“After the rapid suspension carried out by Fifa, plus the rest of the proceedings opened against me, it is clear that I will not be able to return to my position,” Rubiales said in his statement.

“Insisting on waiting and clinging… is not going to contribute anything positive, neither to the federation nor to Spanish football. Among other things, because there are de facto powers that will prevent my return.”

He said he had also stepped down as a vice-president of European football body Uefa. He posted his statement on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter.

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Rubiales said his departure would contribute “stability” to the 2030 men’s World Cup bid, in which Spain are involved.

Reuters reached out to Hermoso’s representative for comment on Rubiales’ resignation, and they did not return the telephone call.

Hermoso, Spain’s all-time top scorer with 51 goals, plays at Mexican top-tier side Pachuca, where she moved in June 2022 following her second spell at Barcelona.

Spanish government ministers, who had been solidly behind Hermoso and others calling for Rubiales to go, celebrated his departure.

“The feminist country is advancing faster and faster,” Spain’s acting Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz posted on X after news of Rubiales’ resignation.

“The transformation and improvement of our lives is inevitable. We are with you, Jenni, and with all women.”

“It’s over,” said Spain’s Equality Minister Irene Montero, adopting a slogan used by Hermoso and her fellow players in protest against Rubiales.

Over 80 players went on strike from the women’s team in protest after Rubiales. The players said they would not return until the leadership of the RFEF was changed. Spain are due to play Women’s Nations League matches against Sweden and Switzerland on Sept 22 and 26 respectively.

Controversial women’s coach Jorge Vilda was sacked last Tuesday in the fallout from the scandal. His former assistant Montserrat Tome is the new coach – it is the first time a woman has led the team.

Spanish women’s players union Futpro did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Although he stepped down as boss of the federation, Rubiales continued to defend his version of events. A message posted with his statement on Sunday said: “I will defend my honour. I will defend my innocence. I have faith in the future. I have faith in the truth.”

In an interview with journalist Piers Morgan on Sunday, Rubiales added he made the decision to resign having talked with family and friends.

“Luis, you have to focus on your dignity and continue your life. (Otherwise) you will probably be hurting more people you love and the sport you love,” he quoted them as saying.

Meanwhile, Hermoso received an emotional tribute from Pachuca in their 2-1 victory over Pumas on Sunday in the Liga MX women’s league. She returned to the Mexican club on Thursday for her first game since claiming the World Cup title.

Hermoso unveiled a mural in the hallways of the Hidalgo Stadium, then was greeted on the pitch before the match with a giant banner with her Women’s World Cup photos and mariachi music.

As her teammates and the crowd applauded ecstatically, she posed for the cameras and received a framed jersey with her No. 10 on it, smiling and waving to the fans in the stands. REUTERS, AFP

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